When you've never gone without, food can be taken for granted. But not everyone has this abundance, and food insecurity is a major problem in communities across America. So when I started Souper Heroes, it was with the goal of celebrating food on our tables while giving back what I, and my friends old and new, could to our local community. Here are three things I've learned about throwing events that celebrate and give back all at the same time.
Giving Back Comes from Gratitude
Honestly, I don't know where my insane amount of gratitude for food has come from. It could be memories of growing up on home-cooked family dinners with my parents and four siblings around an oval table every night.
My gratitude for food could have come from my dad asking what we learned that day as we passed the potatoes. And if we had questions about a certain topic being discussed, he'd send my brother David upstairs to get an encyclopedia. (Remember those?)
It could have been driving an hour and a half to our grandmother's house to work the garden we planted in her big backyard. Maybe it's from watching my brother and sisters work the soil in the hot sun while I, the youngest, made lemonade in the air conditioning with Grandma Janusz.
I'm not sure why I have it. But I do. And there came a time where I had no choice but to help those who didn't have any food to be grateful for.
Enter Souper Heroes. Our mission is to have fun with food and community while providing for those who don't have enough of either. Currently, our main events are Soup and Bread, started by Martha Bayne in Chicago, and food swapping. But we're working on cooking classes, underground Souper Secret dinners, and more.
Each event is a mixture of celebration and gratitude that shares what we have and communes with others. But it also provides an opportunity to show gratitude through giving to those in need through our Donation Slow Cooker or Donation Mason Jar set out at each event. Our events are free, allowing people to give according to their ability. It isn't strange to find a $100 bill and a plastic bag full of change in the same donation vessel.
3 Tips for Creating Events That Give Back
If you're anything like me (and since you're on this site I bet you are), let me encourage you to turn your next fun food and kitchen event into one that pays it forward.
1. Find a small way to add extra love.
When the kids ask me what is in our dinner, the first thing I say is, “First I added love …” And that's all this is. Add some extra love to your kitchen gatherings.
- Implementing a donation vessel like our Donation Slow Cooker is a non-pressure way for people to give money to a charity.
- But it doesn't have to be money. Food pantries always need canned goods, toiletries, and volunteers. (Check out this list of what food banks need the most.) Just find that little something extra your group can easily give and add it on to your event with a call to give.
2. Partner with the biggest organization in your area.
If you're new to the hunger relief system in your area, just go with the one you hear about the most. A local food bank is actually a really great place to start. Food banks are hubs that collect the food and then distribute it to food pantries that make it available to people who need it. Reach out to them, have coffee with a leader, see how you as a member of the community can help their efforts.
Once you begin to learn about the hunger relief system in your area, you will see how many people are out there keeping the underprivileged in your community fed. And your effort can help them without reinventing the whole system.
3. Remember that even small efforts help.
At Souper Heroes we are not presenting large cardboard checks to anyone (yet!), but our events are steady celebrations that beat sitting home watching TV. I have never handed over a donation to a nonprofit in the hunger relief system and had them say to me, "That's it?" Not one time.
Everything helps. Everything. And just think what would happen if all the people doing little things just stopped. The world would lose a lot of help. Don't hold back from creating opportunities for donation or volunteering just because you think the outcome will be small. Small is wonderful, not least because it represents people doing something when they might have done nothing instead.
- Want some practical inspiration? Read about past Soup & Bread events on our Souper Heroes blog!